Thanksgiving Dinner

| 6 months ago

Registered Dietitians Share Their Top Tips for a Healthy Thanksgiving Meal

Thanksgiving is one of the most anticipated meals of the year for many people. As enjoyable and delicious as the feast can be, it can also be a reason for us to throw our health and wellness goals out the window, leading to some discomfort and regret following the big meal. To help us create an enjoyable Thanksgiving meal, we turned to Atrium Health Levine Cancer Institute’s Department of Supportive Oncology’s team of registered dietitians for their top tips on how to have a healthy and happy Thanksgiving. 

The days leading up to Thanksgiving are often filled with trips to the grocery store, extra time in the kitchen, meal planning and general excitement for the special time with family and friends. As you prepare for Thanksgiving, it is important to keep in mind that how you cook and what goes into each recipe is critically important to your health and wellbeing. A group of registered dietitians with Atrium Health Levine Cancer Institute’s Department of Supportive Oncology, under the leadership of Michele Szafranski, MS, RD, CSO, LDN, clinical nutrition manager, put together a list of tips that if followed, will make the Thanksgiving holiday enjoyable and healthier for all.

  • Don’t stuff your bird! It is difficult to control the internal temperature of the stuffing and can harbor dangerous bacteria.

  • Don’t let food poisoning spoil your holiday fun! Be sure to have a meat thermometer on hand during your holiday meal preparation and use it to confirm all items are cooked to the proper temperature. Turkey should be cooked to 165 F.

  • Keep an eye on your leftovers. Refrigerate them promptly (within an hour) and throw them out after 3 days. You can also freeze them for later use- they can keep for 2-6 months in your freezer.

  • Sharing is not always caring! Some items such as knives, cutting boards, and other utensils should not be shared. For example, when prepping raw meat and raw vegetables, each should have their own cutting board and set of cutting utensils to help avoid foodborne illnesses through cross contamination.

  • Makeover classic Thanksgiving recipes using healthier ingredients or alternative cooking methods. For example, instead of a traditional green bean casserole, try roasting your green beans instead:
    • One pound of green beans tossed with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of “Everything Bagel” seasoning, roast at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

  • Consider adding a side salad with seasonal toppings like small pieces of roasted butternut squash, roasted beets, toasted pumpkin seeds, diced apple, etc. Incorporate a vinegar-based dressing to help keep calories low.

  • Add colorful fruits and vegetables to your Thanksgiving table to increase the healthy phytochemicals. They help keep your immune system strong and build better health.
    • Red in cranberries and red cabbage = anthocyanins
    • Orange in sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash and pumpkin = carotenoids
    • White in onions and garlic = allium phytochemicals
    • Broccoli, collards, cauliflower and cabbage = isothiocyanates
  • Skinless white meat turkey is the leanest choice, but if you prefer dark meat or the drumstick take off the skin.

  • Liquid calories sneak up on you – alcohol, creamy drinks like eggnog, sodas, even smoothies! These do not fill you up like solid foods do, and you may end up consuming more calories than you think.

  • Be mindful of alcohol intake, the recommendation for women is no more than one drink a day, men no more than two.

  • Do not fast in preparation for a holiday meal. You will end up binging at the meal and eating just as many – if not more – calories.  Eat a good protein-filled breakfast and a light lunch before a holiday dinner.

  • Take a walk with the family after the meal – this will help with digestion and afternoon fatigue.

Need inspiration for healthy, delicious Thanksgiving meals? Check out these recipes created by Levine Cancer Institute’s Department of Supportive Oncology’s team of registered dietitians.